Lon Chaney - the first of the great actors

In some ways, it’s only appropriate.  The first great actor should come out of the horror genre.  After all, the horror genre was the first great collection of films.  And it wasn’t just American films, either.  In fact, two of the best films of the silent era were German horror films – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu.  Then the genius seemed to travel across the Atlantic (literally, in the case of Nosferatu director F.W. Murnau) and great horror films began to bloom in the States.  At the forefront of that was Lon Chaney, one of the great actors in film history.  He also became one of the first great losses to film history when he died at the age of 47 of lung cancer in 1930, 81 years ago today.

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Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)

Laurence Olivier

  • Born: 1907
  • Died: 1989
  • Rank: 60
  • Score: 560.00
  • Awards: none for directing but countless for acting
  • Nominations: Oscar (just one for directing – 11 overall and two honorary awards)
  • Feature Films: 5
  • Best: Henry V
  • Worst: The Prince and the Showgirl

Films (in rank order):

  1. Henry V – 1944
  2. Hamlet – 1948
  3. Richard III – 1955
  4. Three Sisters – 1970
  5. The Prince and the Showgirl – 1957

Top 10 Best Director finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1946 – 6th – Henry V
  • 1948 – 2nd – Hamlet
  • 1956 – 5th – Richard III

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Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper and Tom Hanks all have two Oscars. Neither Richard Burton or Orson Welles won an acting Oscar. They seemed to like the underplaying.

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Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight (1965)

“Welles never approached such posterity again, although ‘Touch of Evil’ (1958) is a fine example of the then-fading film noir genre.”
Steve Persall ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (as syndicated in the San Diego Union Tribune)

First of all, when you’ve just explained that Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made, obviously he never approached such posterity again. Neither did anyone else. That’s kind of the point. But in Persall’s article, he dismisses Welles among other directors that “once were giants.” What that misses is that Welles may have been forced out of the studio system, but he hardly failed to continue to be a giant (fat jokes not withstanding). (more…)

For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

Preparing this list I never had any doubt who would come out on top. My question was, given the way I was ranking the characters, by how much of a margin would he come out on top? The answer was: a healthy one.

The interesting thing about this list is that even though Marvel has been considered the more “in” company for a long time, the more adult, and has had considerable success on film this decade (and it’s fair share of colossal failures), it’s DC who has done a better job with the villains. As Marvel cements its brand on-screen in the next couple of years with Iron Man and Hulk sequals and Captain America, Thor and Avengers films, it will be nice if they can get the villains right.

Anyway, to create this list, I used a 1-10 scale in five categories: Interesting, Evil, Intelligence, Fidelity to the Comic Book and Performance. So the point totals are out of 50.

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I met him about two years ago. He and Joanne Woodward came into the store on a Friday night. They were very nice. When they went to the register our cashier noticed his card wasn’t signed (good job, Milo!), then asked him for ID because she didn’t know who he was (you’re embarrassing me, Milo!), which was made worse two minutes later after they had left and another cashier, said “You know, from the salad dressing!” (I’m gonna kill you, Rebecca).

I reduce so much in life to a point system. My point system on actors is based on how good a performance is, weighted slightly higher for a lead. Among male actors, he is fourth all-time, behind Nicholson, De Niro and Hoffman. He is so high, both for his amazing ability and for his longevity. I had him as the third best actor of the sixties (behind Richard Burton and Sidney Poitier), but also the fifth best actor of the eighties (behind Nicholson, William Hurt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Caine).

He made 55 films. I have seen 34 of them. He was always good. Usually brilliant. The best follows.

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Akira Kurosawa directing Toshiro Mifune on The Bad Sleep Well

Akira Kurosawa directing Toshiro Mifune on The Bad Sleep Well

You always hear the names linked together: John Ford and John Wayne, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder. But who really are the best combinations in film history. What are the DVD box sets that really should be released? I’m glad you asked. I have the answers.

The first thing that may surprise you (because it surprised me) is which combinations get left off the top 10 list. My list depends only partially on the number of films they made together, and much more on the quality of acting that came out of the films. Robert Redford made a lot of films with Sydney Pollack, but wasn’t all that great in several of them (not on the list). Diane Keaton was great in Annie Hall, but not as memorable in the other Woody Allen films she’s in (not on the list). Hitchcock had a lot of great actors, but none who stuck around long enough. Jimmy Stewart is always thought of with Frank Capra, but he did two great performances (Life and Mr. Smith) and that was pretty much it. And the Ford/Wayne combo doesn’t make the list, because as I said, it’s the strength of the acting. Make your own conclusions.

Now, here’s the list: (more…)